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Christchurch: 1 – 3 May 2015
Auckland: 30 July – 2 August 2015
Wellington: 4 - 6 September 2015

Sambal Assam 

CATEGORIES: Dinner, Seafood, Curry


  • 2 tbsp tamarind pulp
  • 10 red shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 10 red chillies
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 100ml neutral oil
  • 60g palm sugar, roughly chopped
  • 5g flake salt
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste (belacan) (optional)


Place the tamarind pulp in a heatproof bowl and pour over 1 cup of boiling water. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally. When the water is cool enough to touch comfortably, strain and discard the solids, squeezing them to produce as much liquid as possible.

Combine the shallots, chillies and garlic in a food processor and process to a rough paste. (I like to still have a bit of texture in the paste but you can process it until smooth if you prefer.) Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and when hot, add in the paste and reduce the heat to low. Cook the paste, stirring regularly, until much of the moisture has been driven off and the mixture is fragrant. This will take about 10-15 minutes.

Add in the tamarind water, sugar, salt and shrimp paste (if using). Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10-15 minutes until the red oil separates from the mixture. The mixture will keep in the freezer for several months. Try this sambal with prawns, squid, chicken, dried anchovies or even hard-boiled eggs that have been fried whole in a little oil.

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A sambal is a spicy sauce containing chilli.

A sambal is a spicy sauce containing chilli. There are many different types of sambal in south-east Asian cooking, but the addition of tamarind gives this sauce a great sourness that works well with seafood, white meat and even eggs. It is a perfect foil to coconut rice and is integral to the balance of wonderful traditional dishes like Nasi Lemak (coconut rice).


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